Hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers were pulling out of the Somali capital on Friday, witnesses said - amid fears the troops' departure will allow Islamic insurgents to take even more control of the lawless country.
Ethiopia has been propping up Somalia's weak government for two years, but vowed to leave by the end of 2008. Officials declined to give an exact date because of fears of a power vacuum, saying only that the thousands of troops would be pulled out in stages.
It was not immediately clear how many were leaving Friday, but residents said they saw hundreds on the move. Ethiopia has not said how many soldiers are in Somalia, but most are in the capital, Mogadishu.
"This is the first time we saw Ethiopian soldiers moving out of Mogadishu in such numbers," resident Dahabo Awnure told The Associated Press.
The Ethiopians were called on in 2006 to prop up the U.N.-backed government and rout Islamic militants who had taken over most of the country. Initially, the superior firepower worked - the Islamists were driven from power. But they quickly regrouped and launched an Iraq-style insurgency that continues today.